At the Pacific Northwest College of Art, a pair of antlers hang on the gallery wall. Wisps of cotton and fabric dangle off the antlers with dried flowers glued on and around the piece. The effect is ethereal and emotional but not unruly, soft but still intentional. Much like Sophia Mautz.
Mautz won a Scholastic gold key for her mixed-media antlers, called “Grandma’s House,” and it wasn’t her first win. As a sophomore, she entered her poetry in the Scholastic competition and won a national gold medal. She won gold again as a senior and was named among the nation’s top eight teen writers. Oregon poet laureate Paulann Petersen, her mentor, nominated her to be the only teen ever to give a reading at the Silverton Poetry Festival.
She started writing poetry when she was 6 years old.
“I always had the impulse to use words to capture my experiences,” Mautz says “Much of my poetry and art is inspired by different cultures and experiences.”
“When I’m traveling, all of my senses are always heightened so I feel the urge to create. I feel a deep pull to flowers specifically and nature in general.”
In contrast, school – “the fluorescent hallways and the classrooms and the classes,” as Mautz describes it – inspires her least.
For most of her life, Mautz felt that two sides of her personality were in competition.
“I have a very specific dichotomy. One side is very ambitious and academic and intellectual. The other side is more sensitive and emotional and artistic and creative. Both sides are equally strong,” she says.
Mautz’ emotional side got her elected “most dramatic” in the yearbook’s Senior Superlatives, but she turned the title down. She says the role represented an outdated version of herself.
“I was very dramatic freshman year,” Mautz said. “In the sense of being involved in drama. But I’ve stopped caring what people think about me and started to cultivate self-love. I was super sad when I got that label. That just shows how it’s time to get out of this place.”
The different sides pulled Mautz in many directions throughout high school as she pursued academics, art and community outreach.
“Freshman year I thought I wanted to go into business and major in finance,” says Mautz. “Basically, the main goal was to make money. I did Constitution Team and Mock Trial and the full IB program and a bunch of these things that were very academic. I wasn’t necessarily too passionate about them.”
As she matured, Mautz recognized her dual sides did not have to be so separate.
“I can be very ambitious in my art and I can combine my sensitive and my ambitious sides. It’s always a constant process to juggle these two sides.
“It is very hard to balance because I’m confused,” Mautz said. “I don’t know which part is more important to me.”
Her high school journey has helped reconcile the contradictions. Now, she says, “I’m going to major in creative writing or English or art history because those are what I love doing and studying. Hopefully there are careers in that field. It’s hard because I don’t want to be unemployed and have to focus on my passion to make a living, But I also don’t want to have something that I don’t love suck up all my time.”
Mautz is taking a gap year to travel and write. Then she’s headed to Harvard, which has been her dream since she was a little girl.
“I grew up thinking ‘it’s the best place in the world and I’m gonna go there,’ which is obviously very naive,” Mautz says. “When I actually started the college process and I looked into the English departments, I realized that Harvard has my favorite poet, who is Jorie Graham, as a professor. Ultimately, I knew what I wanted and I knew what was best for me.”
She credits four Lincoln teachers as major influences:
Cynthia Irby, a retired ceramics teacher, who “was amazing in terms of understanding who I am as an artist and the struggles that I faced.”
Jordan Gutlerner “completely made me a different writer and helped me understand the craft of literature.”
Mark Halpern “really changed the way I look at things with the beautiful ideas we talked about in class.”
Bill Lynch “for his compassion and his kindness as a person and as a teacher.”
Looking back at how she has changed over four years, “I’m really into mindfulness and I’m much more in touch with my creative side, and generally less dramatic…probably. I’m very happy with who I am becoming.”